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Target, Sears do about-face, say they’ll include ‘Christmas’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Two of the country’s largest retail chains have reversed course and are now directly acknowledging Christmas in their in-store promotions and advertising.

Target and Sears both informed the American Family Association, a pro-family organization based in Tupelo, Miss., they are using “Christmas,” thereby changing their recent practice. As a result of Target’s decision, AFA announced it would end its boycott of the chain. Although AFA had not called for a boycott of Sears and its subsidiary, Kmart, the organization had listed the company as one of those that had banned “Christmas” in favor of more generic words, such as “holiday.”

Pro-family leaders who had called for changes by offending retailers welcomed the decisions.

“We are pleased to learn that Target has heard our concerns and decided to use Christmas in their advertising and marketing efforts,” AFA Chairman Donald Wildmon said in announcing the end of the boycott in a written statement. “We think you will see a different approach next year.

“Corporate America is getting the word from the grassroots,” he said.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, commended AFA, other groups and Americans who “expressed their outrage to these large retail outlets and who exercised the stewardship of their purchasing power to bring about a 180-degree reversal by these corporate giants.”

“In the ongoing campaign by a small minority of rabid secularists to expunge the acknowledgment of the Christian heritage of much of our nation, a powerful counterweight is an aroused American citizenry that refuses to be pummeled any longer by these secular elitists,” Land told Baptist Press. “This should be a warning to all of those who seek to bow to the gods of political correctness, and the warning is, ‘Christians aren’t going to take it anymore, and there will be a heavy price to be paid for discriminating against people of religious faith.’”

Land and 24 signers affiliated with state Baptist conventions had urged Target, Sears and Home Depot in Dec. 6 letters to reverse their refusal to use the word “Christmas” in their store signs and advertising. Though they did not threaten a boycott, Land and the other signers asked for the companies to make the change “before Christians take their business to stores more supportive of their values.”

In their letter to Target Chief Executive Officer Robert Ulrich, the signers said about 85 percent of the American public professes Christianity or sympathizes with Christianity. “It is extremely hard for us to understand why you would discriminate against these fine people who have supported your company over the years,” the letter said. “In fact, there just might not be a Target without the purchases of Christians.

“Maybe it is politically correct these days to replace our true and tried values, but we think a time will come when Target and other businesses will regret their part in destroying the true meaning of Christmas,” Land and the others said.

They communicated the same message to Sears CEO Aylwin Lewis and Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli.

On Dec. 7, AFA announced Sears had contacted its office to inform the pro-family organization it was placing “Merry Christmas” signs in its stores. It also had posted a Christmas greeting on its Internet site, Sears told AFA.

AFA revealed Target’s decision in a Dec. 9 release. “Over the course of the next few weeks, our advertising, marketing and merchandising will become more specific to the holiday that is approaching -– referring directly to holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah,” Target said in its statement, according to AFA. “For example, you will see reference to Christmas in select television commercials, circulars and in-store signage.”

Wildmon said almost 700,000 people had declared their intention to boycott Target by signing onto a list on the AFA website.

In addition to Target’s omission of “Christmas,” AFA also had objected to the chain’s decision, beginning last year, not to permit Salvation Army bell ringers to collect for the charity in front of its stores. In November, Target entered into a partnership with the Salvation Army to enable customers to order items online to donate to hurricane victims and others.

In addition to the responses by Target and Sears, Lowe’s also informed AFA in late November it was removing outside banners that referred to “holiday trees’ in favor of signs that read “Christmas trees.”

The following companies continue to omit “Christmas” from their advertising or in-store promotions, according to AFA: Best Buy, Nordstrom, Office Max and Staples.

The following leaders, listed with their state Baptist convention or other affiliation, joined Land in signing onto the letters to Target, Sears and Home Depot: Rodney Albert, Missouri Baptist Convention; David Baldwin, Alaska Baptist Convention; Thane Barnes, Nevada Baptist Convention; Howard Beauman, Kentucky Ethics League; Timothy Boyd, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists; William Bunkley, Florida Baptist Convention; Timothy Clark, Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention; Michael Collins, Baptist State Convention of Michigan; Mark Creech, Christian Action League of North Carolina; Steve Davis, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; Mark Edlund, Colorado Baptist General Convention; Leo Endel, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention; Terry Harper, West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists; Dan Ireland, Alabama Citizens Action Program; David Lee, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; Joseph Mack, South Carolina Baptist Convention; Joe Bob Mizzell, Alabama Baptist State Convention; Ray Newman, Georgia Baptist Convention; Glen Owens, Florida Baptist Convention; Jimmy Porter, Mississippi Baptist Convention; Terry Robertson, Baptist Convention of New York; Audrey Smith, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio; Phil Strickland, Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Jim Wideman, Baptist Convention of New England.